HRM talks to Mars, which has been ranked as one of the best places to work in Australia in 2017, about how HR at the global company operates.
How many of us would describe our workplaces as “a great place to work”? Isn’t it the case that you have to experience both good and bad to recognise what makes somewhere a place you want to go to each day?
Experts and promoters of ideal workplace cultures, Great Place to Work Australia (GPTW) has established an annual research survey, based on data representing more than 10 million employees in 50 countries from around 6,000 organisations of varying sizes, industries, maturity and structures.
Their latest, published last week, revealed the company rankings for 2017. In the category with the largest number of employees – 1000 or more – arguably the hardest in which to achieve workplace satisfaction, Mars Australia took out the top spot.
(A truncated winner’s list is below. For the rest, go here – signup required.)
The survey benchmarks employers against a series of engagement indicators, the key factor being one much talked about during AHRI’s recent National Convention – trust.
According to GPTW criteria, “Trust is the defining principle of great workplaces — created through management’s credibility, the respect with which employees feel they are treated, and the extent to which employees expect to be treated fairly.”
A case study in trust
So how does Mars Australia, the name behind brands such as Whiskas, Wrigley and M&Ms, match up against these principles?
Jim Brodie, HR divisional director at Mars Petcare, believes the success of the culture has a lot to do with the history and values of what is still a privately-owned company.
“First and foremost ours is a global business that is over 100 years old and the values of the Mars family have remained alive and well throughout its history. It’s a principle driven organisation that isn’t just a plaque on the wall, it’s a way of operating,” says Brodie.
Being a family-run business allows Mars a financial freedom – unbeholden to shareholders – to make decisions for the long-term benefit of the business.
“In one of our sites at Wodonga, we are celebrating 50 years of manufacturing in regional Australia. We are the biggest employer in that area and we are continuing to make investments there to set ourselves up for the next 50 years,” says Brodie. It is an indication of a business deeply rooted in and responsible to its community: a fact that pays off in terms of employees’ loyalty and respect for the company.
Mars’ commitment to sustainability around communities extends to energy, too. Over four years, between 2006 to 2010, the company reduced its energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 25 per cent across its four manufacturing sites. The Asquith site sends zero waste to landfill and at its Wyong site, Mars Food has installed a state-of-the-art co-generation plant that efficiently generates both heat and power, producing 5.3 million kilowatt hours of electricity in its first year.
But this is a global business, and Mars are mindful of the fact that their products rely on sourcing ingredients that can impact communities in far flung places – for good or ill. Mars Chocolate, for example, is committed to sourcing 100 per cent of its cocoa from certified sources by 2020 and introduced Rainforest Alliance certification for the cocoa in its MARS® bars in 2011.
“We see our principles of sustainability, mutuality and freedom as central to Mars. This purpose-driven organisation, whether it is bringing families together or making a better world for pets, is something that our associates [Mars doesn’t call their staff ‘employees’] really relate to in a positive way,” says Brodie.
Beyond the high-minded stuff, the company offers perks that Brodie believes help to add to that “extended family” atmosphere. The sites, for example, are pet-friendly.
“It’s mainly dogs; people are welcome to bring their dogs to work each and every day. We have guidelines for health and safety with leashed areas but there are off leash areas, too,” says Brodie.
Mars snacks are available to staff as well, which might seem like an open invitation to gorge on chocolate. But Brodie insists that the company has been on the front foot in leading the agenda to make sure their products are part of a healthy diet. They run health and wellness programs including fitness assessments and running groups. “We are proactive in terms of finding a healthy balance,” he says.
But we know from countless surveys that while chocolate and dogs on site are nice to have, this isn’t what engages people. Nor is it pay, says Brodie.
“Remuneration doesn’t necessarily retain or attract people. What works here is that we are a highly decentralised organisation, trusting our associates and delegating decision making to the lowest possible level so that people feel empowered,” says Brodie.
“At Mars, we treat people with dignity, respect and care but we also ask them to take personal responsibility for success in their role. The engagement that that brings, I think, is a catalyst for the success of this organisation.”
Top five places to work (over 1000 employees)
- Mecca Brands
- Campbell Arnott’s
- Marriott Hotels and Resorts Australia
Top five places to work (over 100 employees)
- Stryker (health care)
- Birdsnest (retail)
- Nous Group (professional services, consulting)
Top five places to work (under 100 employees)
- Avenue Dental (health care)
- Intuit Australia (IT)
- Canva (IT)
- Isentra (IT)
- Stackla (IT)